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March 02, 2004

Deja vu all over again.

So, we're in a war. A longish one for us, comparatively. So, as we do anytime a war lasts long enough, what do we do? Rediscover Marksmanship. I can remember the abuse I took as a battery commander (especially of HHB DIVARTY) when I took the old riflery thing seriously. And pistolry (that really chapped the Staff), and machine gunnery. And grenadiers. And the fight to get to shoot LAAW trainers? Oh my! You'd have thought I was asking to qualify my medics in tank gunnery or something. And this was in a time when the Division G3 would put out notices telling people that we were in danger of getting dinged for not expending our annual allocations (including LAAW sub-caliber rounds). Needless to say, my battery was never on the bad-boy list for that. And, as we still had the trusty old M1911A1, and almost no one but my battery shot theirs, I had access to plenty of .45 ammo to indulge myself and wear out the barrels on my two M3 grease guns.

New topic - but related. Long-time (okay, six months) readers of this space will know that I see the culture of the Air Force as distinctly different from that of the other services. And it's not just that they are the baby service, it has to do with their way of doing business. Advances in aircraft design, performance and avionics have served to pretty much pull the enlisted Air Force member out of the line of direct fire, as we lost the need for gunners, on-board crew chiefs, radio operators, etc. While there were certainly still AF enlisted who went in harms way on the ALO teams, the Para-rescue guys and other elements of SOF, for the most part, the AF enlisted ranks stood on the sides of the runway and waved goodbye to the officers who went off to do the killing and sometimes dying. Well, that's changed - and we're back to something more akin to Vietnam for the Air Force, with bases in dangerous country, and direct fire combat (vice Scuds and such) the threat. Now the AF enlisted guy or gal, whether in the compounds in Iraq or, more likely, along the MSRs, (Main Supply Routes) is the one most likely to get shot at. And now the Air Force has rediscovered marksmanship. And it's rediscovered train as you fight, lest you fight as you train.

Those of you who read SGT Hook will know that he has blogged on occasion about going to the 'convoy range' where soldiers practice shooting from inside and on their vehicles. The Air Force is doing that now, too. As are the Marines who have always been big on marksmanship. I don't think anyone outside of SOF had been doing the creative shooting training now becoming routine for our warrior class. (Unrelated political aside - can you imagine how nervous this must be making anti-gunners? All those really well trained killers on the loose back here? Given how anyone involved in a shooting incident who ever served in the services is presumed to be a steely eyed gunman - now they ARE! Of course, as Jen Martinez notes, this is what they really are.)

I like it. Not because is validates my attitude as a commander, I don't need that, I know I was right. But because it validates my belief that the essence of military service are the warrior virtues and basic warrior skills - something that we lose sometimes when we're used as social engineering laboratorys, and we have to struggle to keep the flame alive. The fact that flame ever flickers rests squarely on the shoulders of the Officer Corps of the various services, and no where else.

It's good to see they're on the ball, for the most part!